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“It’s showtime!” – BetMGM bets big on the UK

| By kylegoldsmith | Reading Time: 8 minutes
In a heavily saturated UK market, BetMGM’s entry in 2023 certainly made a splash. Sam Behar, BetMGM’s UK director, believes the key to the operator’s early success is bringing that unique Las Vegas experience across the Atlantic.
BetMGM UK Behar

BetMGM launched in the UK in August in partnership with MGM-owned LeoVegas to much fanfare and, five months on, the results have spoken for themselves.

With a series of flashy sponsorships that have well and truly put BetMGM on the map in the UK, its Las Vegas ties have been put on show for all to see. Despite the high expectations, BetMGM has still managed to surpass Behar’s initial lofty projections.

“It’s been an unbelievable first five months entering the UK – especially given the way we did,” Behar says. “We had a unique ambition to make things work and we’ve certainly made a big splash, which is excellent.

“Of course we always thought it would, but it’s made a much bigger impact than even we could have anticipated and, even though we had high hopes, we even exceeded those expectations. It’s fair to say punters really like our product, especially the Vegas experience that we’ve brought to the UK.”

So how has BetMGM managed to make such a huge impact in such a short period of time? Research is the answer, as well as a strong emphasis on providing what the UK market has lacked in recent years – entertainment and engagement for punters.

“We are a very data driven business and we employed a significant amount of data to make our decisions,” Behar adds. “We’re seeing punters particularly engaged by our exclusive content, such as the MGM Grand Gamble slot game, which is a very exciting development. This is particularly the case given our position in sports betting.

“To be able to position things like that in the market means we’ve got a real ability to engage customers. Once you put all that together, you’ve got so many ways to engage customers across multiple verticals.”

BetMGM brings Vegas to the UK

BetMGM has a hugely iconic brand in the US, boasting especially strong ties to Las Vegas, where the MGM Grand and Bellagio continue to flourish.

However, Behar is keen to emphasise BetMGM UK’s need to build its own separate identity, while also maintaining the brand pillars that have made it so successful in the US.

“Our goal is to bring the US elements over while building our own UK-based identity,” Behar states. “Of course, customers really like the glitz and Americana. Ultimately, our goal is to create a new golden era in the igaming space.

“We’re looking to bring something bigger, bolder and more exciting for the UK. We truly believe this is one of the biggest launches the UK has seen in the last 15 years and we’re here to make a difference.”

A typically ostentatious advert, featuring comedian Chris Rock and a lion on a golden speedboat going down the River Thames, marked BetMGM’s arrival in the UK, certainly leaving an impression. For Behar, though, the advert also highlighted exactly what BetMGM’s brand is hoping to be in the UK.

“Looking at our launch ad, I think overall it’s a fairly transparent gap that we believe we’re filling,” he continues. “No one is as entertaining as we are. We believed everyone needed a brand like ours.

“We want to cater to everyone; our aim is to build a product that can entertain all of the UK. In short, we want to offer a proposition that others can’t in the UK.”

BetMGM’s product focus

BetMGM UK

Putting out the best product possible is one of BetMGM UK’s core objectives, with what Behar labelled a “golden offering” allowing the brand to better engage with UK customers and help to pry them away from the clutches of operators already established in the market.

“When we’re turning up with the best prices in the market, as well as with industry-leading promotions, including golden prices, price boosts, acca bonuses and Golden Goals to the UK market – which offers the chance to predict six games across the Premier League with a £2m (€2.3m/$2.5m) prize – you can see why we aim to be the biggest in the UK.

“On top of that, our US background, along with our world-class mobile UX from LeoVegas, which has won multiple awards and is developed using our in-house IP, and we start to have a real differentiator.

“Add in our acquisition of the studio Push Gaming last year, as well as our price point and promotional schedule along with one of the best loyalty programmes, and you can see how we’re making something special.”

Sponsorship and casino a focus

Making an entry into such a well-established market like the UK can be daunting for operators, as they look to compete with brands such as Paddy Power, Sky Bet and Bet365.

But looking at the sponsorships that BetMGM has already managed to agree, it already appears that Behar and co have made a dent. Again, BetMGM is looking to align itself with not only the best, but also the most entertaining sports clubs and brands in the UK.

“We want to be as memorable as possible before the whistle goes off,” Behar adds. “We have deals with Premier League clubs Manchester City, Wolves, Brighton, Aston Villa and Newcastle. You’ll see the MGM brand at all of those stadiums.

“On top of that, we are also the title sponsor of the darts Premier League. This was a deal we were working on for a while and, now that we can see the popularity of darts over Christmas at the World Championship, it’s easy to see how we’re looking to align with the best entertainment possible as well as supporting UK sport.”

BetMGM’s deep casino history is a real key differentiator for Behar, believing the operator’s offering is the best in the UK.

Behar highlighted the BetMGM Millions jackpot that is currently the world’s biggest available online casino jackpot, as well as the Golden Wheel promotion, which offers punters the chance to win a trip to Las Vegas.

“Without a doubt, the Vegas proposition is a real strength of ours,” Behar stated. “We’re seeing multiple different types of users engaging with what we have to offer and our strength of brand opens up so many new types of audiences to that conversion.

“Once you combine entertainment, with that classic element of Americana, you’ve got every reason to use sports, casino and the live element too.”

BetMGM looking to shake up UK market

The UK market’s rapid growth of yesteryear has stalled somewhat, with giants such as 888/William Hill and Bet365 announcing disappointing financial reports, reflecting a wider stagnation in Europe.

Too many operators neglecting the purpose of entertaining punters is the answer for that in Behar’s view, identifying a clear gap in the market for BetMGM to make its mark.

“We can see that the UK has turned very stale over the last five years, with most tier one operators acting like financial services brands,” Behar says. “We’re changing that and no one is as Vegas as we are.

“Looking at our legacy, it’s easy to see what a core differentiator that can be or, as we say, ‘What happens in Vegas is too good to stay in Vegas’. We represent the golden era that made that city great and we’ve carried it over here.”

That strategy is proving fruitful too, with Behar confident that BetMGM’s early success will continue in 2024 and beyond by sticking close to its principles of providing a fun experience for punters.

“We’ve got everything we need to succeed,” Behar added. “We have the strength of brand and product, as well as the ambition and capital to invest.

“We’re hugely confident that our customers enjoy the fantastic entertainment we have to offer and we are fully confident that the amazing success we have seen thus far will continue.”

BetMGM well-placed to deal with white paper uncertainty

The release of the Gambling Act review white paper in April 2023 was a landmark moment for the UK industry. But the proposed introduction of affordability checks and stake limits led some to be concerned over the future of UK gambling.

For Behar, though, he still sees the UK as a market with big potential, with BetMGM well-placed to deal with new measures should they come in thanks to its strong relationships with regulators, as well as its previous responsible gambling work.

“Given we launched here six months ago, we definitely believe that the UK is a growth market,” Behar says. “Looking at the market it can certainly be called saturated given the amount of operators we have here, but there’s also plenty of potential, just as we have seen with the success of our launch.

“If you can work collaboratively within the framework outlined by the Gambling Commission (GC), you can certainly thrive, just as we are doing.

“When it comes to affordability checks, we jumped the gun on this one and put this in place at the very start. We have a close relationship with both the GC and the Betting and Gaming Council, as well as a dedicated responsible gambling team working with our customers.

The future

So how does BetMGM aim to build on its exciting first five months in the UK? The answer to that is threefold for Behar, who is keen to continue BetMGM’s product-led strategy in order to grow its engagement with punters and become one of the “UK’s best entertainment brands”.

“The first is to continue strengthening our position in the UK as well as building out the market share we’ve already acquired,” Behar declared.

“The second is to continuously develop our product offering. At our heart, we’re a tech business. A third of our group works in product and technology and it’s our mission to ensure everything we develop is from a customer-first basis.

“Third, the acquisition of Push Gaming means that we have a unique position to grow and develop, as well as having our very own games studio to entertain the UK with proprietary content.

It’s still early stages for BetMGM in the UK, but it’s fair to say the initial signs have been positive, with fans seemingly enticed by the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas that Behar and BetMGM have managed to bring over.

Behar’s “showtime” remark serves not only as an exciting declaration of intent from BetMGM in the UK but also as a reminder that the existing UK market may have to buck up its ideas in order to match BetMGM’s entertainment factor.

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